After a couple of months in the hands of the CarAdvice crew, the 2015 Kia Sorento SLi has become a familiar and likeable vehicle.
It’s not like we didn’t like the car to begin with. In fact, we’ve found it to be one of the most impressive diesel all-wheel-drive SUVs on the market. But there’s a big difference between driving a car briefly and living with it for weeks on end, and usually opinions will be swayed one way or another.
I’m personally still impressed by the level of equipment you get for your money with a Kia, and if I was in the market for a seven-seat SUV I’d be pretty swayed to get this vehicle, in this specification – because I think the SLi is the sweet spot in the Sorento range.
We recently had a top-spec Sorento Platinum in the office for assessment, and I sat in both vehicles concurrently to try and gauge my thoughts.
To set it up, the Sorento Platinum is a $55,990 (plus on-road costs) proposition, where this SLi slots below the psychologically-challenging $50K barrier, with a $6500 price advantage.
That extra expenditure gets you a bunch of nice additions in Platinum trim, including heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, memory settings for the driver’s seat, wood trim on the doors, a panoramic glass roof and safety items such as blind-spot monitoring, radar cruise and lane-keeping assistance.
But given that the SLi already has plenty of good bits, such as the same sumptuous leather trim, the same woodgrain on the dash and centre console, and electric seat adjustment for the front chairs, it hardly feels like a ‘poverty pack’.
Many other members of the team here in the Sydney CA office have been spending some time behind the wheel of our SLi, including one regular driver, our chief financial officer John Smith.
To get a feel for how John had been finding the Sorento after about a month of on/off driving, I asked him a few questions, and it became clear that the Kia had grown on him, as he said the car had become “more stylish” in his eyes over time, and that he found the “sleek lines and easy access for all occupants” to be his favourite design features.
“Its obvious that Kia have put a lot of thought into the design of this new Sorento when compared to the previous model,” he said.
He called out interior elements such as that “great faux woodgrain trim”, as well as the “power tailgate” which makes for easy loading of big items. You can open the boot using the keyfob, too.
The interior – despite being exposed to the backsides of many and varied occupants over the past two months – hasn’t shown any indication of wear and tear, no squeaks or rattles, and there are plenty of charging options for occupants including three 12-volt outlets and two USB plugs.
John said the fact this generation of Sorento feels more focused on third-row comfort – there’s a sliding second row which makes rear seat access easier, while the room in the back is also good enough for smaller adults and children on shorter trips – is clearly a big talking point.
“It’s a true seven-seater with three well-proportioned rows which are adaptable to most family missions,” he said. “A workable and pragmatic substitute to a people mover.”
Well said. It's easy to see why people would want this over a Carnival, despite that van being entirely impressive. Part of it could come down to the fact the Sorento has all-wheel drive, which offers the illusion of off-road capability. But more of it likely stems from the SUV's styling, which - while similar in some ways to the Carnival - is more "macho" and less "rental bus".
John – and myself, for what it’s worth – have a couple of niggles with the Sorento. The media system is not as simple as it was in the previous model, and the scrolling functions and map system can take a bit of learning. The live traffic updates via the satellite navigation system have been a big plus – we live in Sydney, after all…
One other issue I’ve had with the car is that it only pairs to Bluetooth while stationary – that’s really annoying if your friend wants to share a tune with you through the stereo! – but re-connecting after exiting and re-entering the has been quick and mostly faultless.
While my commute is much longer than John’s in terms of kilometres (77km from the lower Blue Mountains for me; 14km from the Eastern Suburbs for John) there have been days when it has taken me less time to make it to work than him. But even so, John hasn’t complained.
He said he has enjoyed driving the Sorento “very much”, stating that “for a large SUV it drives and handles incredibly well with only minor leaning when cornering.”
The engine, according to him, is “great”, and I completely concur. The 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel never feels stressed, even with a load of people on board.
It isn’t as efficient as expected, though. Even with some long highway stints it has proved to be a bit of a diesel chugger, with an average fuel use of 9.2 litres per 100 kilometres – the claim is 18 per cent lower than that, at 7.8L/100km combined.
Further – particularly with a full load of people on-board, and even to an extent with two adults – the brakes are somewhat lacking when it comes to stopping in a hurry.
Being a bean counter, John said his favourite feature of the Kia is its ownership credentials. That seven-year warranty, roadside assistance and capped-price servicing scheme is something that no other maker currently offers, and it gives a great idea of what the Kia will cost you over a decent ownership period.
That said, John isn’t so keen on SUVs. In fact, he said that’s his least favourite 'feature' of the car. But he said it would work for him if he had to spend a lot of time on the road because it “just gets the job done with little or no fuss”.
And that’s pretty much how I feel about the Sorento, too. I’m not planning on spawning enough mini-Matts to fill all the seats of the Kia SUV anytime soon (or at all!), but I understand why people love this sort of vehicle.
It has proved – so far – to be entirely family-friendly, a clever and comfortable car with practicality at the forefront of its repertoire.
Family buyers who are in the market for this sort of vehicle will often buy an SUV because they want to take it away on weekends in the bush or hit the dirt occasionally. Soon it’ll be the Sorento’s turn to get off the beaten track, too.
2015 Kia Sorento SLi
Date acquired – September 2015
Odometer reading – 4951km
Travel since previous update – 1971km
Consumption since previous update – 9.2 litres per 100km
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